After our last British breakfast, we caught the Circle Line tube to Westminster and alighted to visit Westminster Abbey. We thoroughly enjoyed a tour guided by a knowledgeable, enthusiastic and entertaining verger. He explained the duties of vergers in the Abbey, and even mused that they might give him an electric cattle prod wand to clear the way for the church worship leaders. It wonderfully tied together so many things we’d learned in our course and other courses about British literature and history. Next we headed for the London Eye. By consensus, we agreed we’d like to do it twice, one in the daylight, and the other at night. It takes 30 minutes for the London Eye to make one revolution, but it was over altogether too fast. This evening we will meet at the London Eye at 7:30 p.m. for our rotation on the London Eye.
Over the last few days, everyone has acknowledged they’re ready and eager to head home. We’d sure welcome it if the airline didn’t lose our luggage again, or cancel one of our flights. But we’re also mindful of the winter storm that hit the northeast, and that a freezing rain and snow winter weather advisory is in effect until shortly before we’re due to land in Grand Rapids. Should be an interesting 29-hour day for us!
Photographs: Entrance to Westminster Abbey; class picture on top of London Eye during our day trip.
After breakfast, we had our final lecture focusing on women in science and some closing thoughts reflecting on lessons for us from the prominent persons in the history of science, medicine and religion. We then caught the tube to Paddington Station and trains from Paddington to Slough and Slough to Windsor. We toured the grounds of Windsor Castle, a stunning medieval castle that is the Queen’s secondary residence. To our profound disappointment, the State Rooms and Semi-State Rooms were not open, so we did not get to see the elaborate interiors of Windsor Castle. Everyone enjoyed several hours of free time in Windsor before we returned to London.
Photographs: Windsor Castle; Windsor and Eton Railroad.
It’s back to the course’s regular schedule for the last few days of our interim. Our lecture focused on Charles Darwin, Francis Galton, and Gregor Mendel. Today was our 3rd and final “working day.” Then students were off to libraries or holed up in the common areas of our hostel where they have wireless internet access to finish up their primary course papers due at 5:00 p.m. Everyone met the deadline. This evening we attended The Mousetrap, a who-done-it murder mystery play that at 63 years is the longest continuously running play in London. At one time or another, we all suspected each of the characters. At the end of the play, we were sworn to secrecy to not tell anyone who did it.
Photographs: Several students working on their course papers; class photo outside St. Martin’s Theatre.
Well, the early morning was worth it. Waking up at 6:30 is never easy, especially for college students, but it was necessary for some of us in order to make our trip today. About half the group went on a tour today, in our own free time, to Dover, Canterbury, and Leeds Castle. Though there was a lot of driving, and not a lot of energy going in, the sights were incredible and the tour was well worth it. Walking up the path to Leeds Castle, seeing the gardens and the walls, touring through the cathedral at Canterbury, and seeing the white cliffs with France in the distance were all parts of this amazing trip. And through it all, we got to listen to our tour guide tell stories of the places we went and passed. To celebrate, and make the most of the day, we went to a pub for dinner, to get some classic English food. But this classic pub meal stayed with water for drinks #grouptame. Our day took us all over, experiencing England’s history and culture firsthand.
The Churchill War Rooms and Museum were an eye-opening and very interesting experience. It was wonderful to be able to step back in time to an era that was so full of constant fear and casualty. Because the War Rooms are much as they were at the end of the war it was much easier to look through the eyes of the people that worked, ate, and slept in these dim rooms. I was fascinated at the thought of being a young woman during WWII working for Churchill in a top secret base helping the war for the Allies’ cause. I believe that by far this was the most exciting and enjoyable venue that we have visited thus far.
After breakfast, our lecture focused on Jenner, Snow, Lister, Pasteur, Nightingale and Fleming, biomedical scientists and clinicians who came to recognize germ theory and develop important ways to control infections. We then caught the tube to Westminster Station and headed to the Florence Nightingale Museum. It was an important and interesting museum, but paled in comparison to yesterday’s Churchill Museum. Then we headed to the Imperial War Museum featuring particularly the science and technology of World Wars I and II. It also has a very poignant Holocaust Museum that deeply touched many of us. The rest of the day…and weekend…are free time with the stipulation that students should attend a worship service of their choice on Sunday morning. Students are off to tour Arsenal’s stadium or Parliament, shop at Harrod’s, and countless other venues. About one-half of the students are planning to take a student tour of Dover tomorrow.
Photographs: Two nursing students posing in Nightingale Museum; Imperial War Museum.
Thursday morning we had the opportunity to visit the Cabinet War Rooms and the Churchill Museum which was a really cool experience. We started out by touring the underground rooms that Churchill and his staff used as their command center for World War II. Many of the rooms were still set up in the same way that they had been left following the conclusion of the war. The museum was also very well-done, and with the aid of our audio tours, we were able to learn a lot about Churchill’s life before, during and after the war. Churchill was an outstanding leader for Britain during WWII, and I really enjoyed learning more about his life on Thursday.
After breakfast, our lecture focused on Newton, Linneaus, and Priestley. We then caught the tube to Westminster Station, briefly stopped to see #10 Downing Street (the Prime Minister’s residence) and Her Majesty and Queen’s Horse Guard Parade, before heading to the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms. It’s a fascinating, hands-on museum connected to the underground bunker war rooms from which Britain waged World War II. While most of our history of science and medicine museums are static, featuring preserved specimens and inert statutes and figures, the Churchill archives include considerable film and audio recordings. We found it most intriguing.
During free time, a group of students went to the Warner Brothers Studio Tour of Harry Potter about 20 miles northwest of London. Another group looked into visiting criminal trials at “Old Bailey” (the Central Criminal Court of England and Wales). Several students attended Evensong at St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Photographs: Entrance to Churchill Museum; student exploring Churchill’s day-to-day activities.
After breakfast, we headed off for the Tube and a short trip to Victoria Station. It was our first encounter with peak Tube traffic—it took us three trains to get everyone to Victoria Station, and we were packed in like sardines. We caught the Oxford Tube—a double decker bus—from Victoria Station to Oxford. Alas, this week, Oxford began a long term road reconstruction project, and it contributed to delaying our arrival by nearly an hour. We immediately toured Christ College, the second largest college comprising Oxford University, then saw the Bodleian Library, Radcliffe Camera, Bridge of Sighs, Shendolian Theatre, History of Science Museum, the site where three Christians were martyred by being burned to death, and the Martyrs’ Memorial before heading to the Eagle and Child Pub for a late lunch. The pub was warm, and atmosphere friendly, and the food very good. Posters on the wall featured the Chronicles of Narnia and Hobbit; one room had pictures and correspondence from T.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. This pub was the site of the weekly meetings of the Inklings for many years.
Several students arranged for a tour of the C.S. Lewis home in Headington. The rest of the group visited the Museum of the History of Science and the Pitt Rivers Museum of Natural History before enjoying 1½ hours of free time in Oxford. Our return trip on the Oxford Tube was slowed by a 3-car accident on the highway.
Photographs: Class outside the Eagle and Child Pub after satisfying lunch.
Breakfast, lecture, then off to three museums in South Kensington. First, we stopped at the Victoria and Albert Museum to see the Chihuly (world famous Seattle glass artist) blown glass chandelier and the plaster cast replica of Michaelangelo’s David statute (the only one outside Italy). The brief stop was intended to whet students interests in possibly spending more of their free time there pursuing the V&A’s rich art holdings. Next stop was the Museum of Natural History, a cathedral-like building of multi-colored marble of ornate architecture. Students explored its vast holdings of fossils, diverse and extinct species, and mineralogy. Our challenge was to explore our personal understandings of origins from the Genesis accounts with the evidence provided from natural science observations. The third museum, the Science Museum, was optional, but is another first-rate museum to science that caters to K-12 programs. The rest of the day was free time. Students are gaining in their confidence to explore venues in London, and have little difficulty filling up their free time with wonderful adventures.
Photographs: Chihuly chandelier in Victoria & Albert Museum; Diplodocus dinosaur skeleton cast in Hintze Hall of Museum of Natural History